During the week, Land of 10 reporters following the Wolverines answer questions on the minds of Michigan fans. Submit a question or suggest a topic by sending a tweet here to Rachel Lenzi or here to Kevin Goheen. Check back Monday through Friday as we answer the Michigan Question of the Day. Go here to see our previous answers.
What’s going on with Kareem Walker? — Ruth Schaffnit, via Facebook
I just happened to pick this question from Ruth Schaffnit, but she isn’t the only Michigan fan asking about Walker. The redshirt sophomore running back and former 4-star prospect from Irvington, N.J., has played in just 5 games and carried the football 20 times for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. However, he draws as much interest and intrigue from the faithful as any player on Michigan’s roster.
Walker has a place on this team and should have every opportunity to show what he can do on the field. Michigan is going to use multiple running backs in its offense, and there are several candidates ― including the 2017 team offensive MVP Karan Higdon ― but that doesn’t mean Walker isn’t in the mix or can’t have a breakout season.
The fact is that no one who knows what’s up with Walker is saying anything about him or his future with the team. A speculative news report in January stated Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh dismissed Walker from the team for repeated rules violations. The report quickly was denounced by both Michigan and Walker’s high school alma mater, DePaul Catholic, as false.
To be clear 1000% Kareem Walker is and will continue to be a student athlete at the university of Michigan. Reports that’s he has been dismissed from the team are 1000% false and inaccurate! bush league reporting at its best!!
— DePaul Football (@dpfootball) January 12, 2018
According to the Michigan student directory, Walker is still enrolled in school. There is no doubt he has had his struggles. He didn’t practice during the first half of his freshman season because of academics, and he never played in a game. Walker sustained an undisclosed injury in preseason camp last year and never was able to surpass Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Isaac on the depth chart.
Walker arrived at Michigan with much hoopla. He once was committed to Ohio State and was the No. 4-ranked running back in the country in the 2016 class by the 247Sports composite. Former Wolverines running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley once compared Walker’s running style to that of Eric Dickerson and praised Walker’s toughness.
That toughness is being tested. The Wolverines have a deep running back room with senior Higdon and junior Evans returning. Those two players accounted for 1,679 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Sophomore O’Maury Samuels played sparingly but in front of Walker at times last season. Redshirt freshman Kurt Taylor Jr. and freshmen Christian Turner, Hassan Haskins and Michael Barrett also will compete for snaps.
This spring is going to be important for Walker. He gets a chance to show that he’s healthy and able to consistently contribute on the field. That has to be goal No. 1.
There will always be questions and speculation about Walker. He was one of the prized recruits of Michigan’s highly rated 2016 class, so naturally people are curious as to why he hasn’t made a bigger splash yet. In a day-and-age where transferring out of a difficult situation is common, that has people wondering if Walker is going to leave the program.
What we can tell you at this point is that he hasn’t left the program and he’s got an opportunity to put those questions to bed. Jim Harbaugh loves to use the term “meritocracy” to describe the level of competitiveness he wants on the team. Walker won’t be given anything. His recruiting status means nothing now, but he’ll get his shot.